PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian badminton great Lee Chong Wei is retiring from the sport after a 19-year-career, he announced on Thursday (Jun 13).
"My decision to retire is a heavy one. I really love this sport. But it is a demanding sport. I thank all Malaysians for the past 19 years," a teary-eyed Lee, 36, told a news conference.
He wanted to bow out next year after Tokyo Games, he said. However, his doctor advised him to rest and minimise pressure.
Lee, a father of two, said he would now like to rest and spend time with his family and even take his wife on a honeymoon, a trip that has been delayed since their marriage in 2012.
The three-time Olympic silver medallist was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer in July last year. News of his condition and subsequent treatment in Taiwan were made public in September.
He said the cancer was detected following a check-up, after he had been unwell. Earlier reports said he had pulled out of two major tournaments due to poor health.
However, he said he was keen to play again following treatment.
But the former world No. 1 has not trained since April and after missing a series of self-imposed deadlines to return to competition, his hopes of being eligible for next year's Tokyo Olympics were remote.
Lee finished second in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games, and was aiming to clinch Malaysia's first Olympic gold.
"I really want to go for one more Olympics to make it my fifth consecutive appearance," he said.
"No athlete from Malaysia has ever competed five times at the Olympics and I want to create history. It's not an easy feat to make it to five Olympics, that's equivalent to 20 years!"